Can You Deliver Training Anytime, Anywhere?
Wherever you go on this planet of ours, I can guarantee you one thing. If there is Wi-Fi available, you will see people using their mobile devices. No matter where they are, they’ll be checking messages, texting, searching the Web for information and, they’ll be learning.
The ability to access learning anytime, anywhere is a big thing for the modern learner. They want, and appreciate, the convenience of mobile learning and they expect you to provide it. But, are you doing enough? You may think that your eLearning program is doing the job, but are you really delivering on the promise of learning anytime, anywhere?
Training anytime, anywhere means mobile learning (or mLearning). Rather than focus on the nuts and bolts of these concepts, I’d like to talk about the wrenches and screwdrivers you need in your eLearning provider toolbox to develop and deliver top-notch on-demand learning.
Can You Deliver Training Anytime, Anywhere?
Mobile Learning – What Does It Take?
For years, the first question eLearning providers have asked is, “Who is your audience?”. Now that we know these audiences want to learn on-the-go, that question has now been joined by two others: “What devices are the audience using?” and “What’s in your toolbox?”.
Who Is Your Audience?
Today’s learning audience has been dubbed the “modern learner”. The modern learner is anyone who uses digital networks to obtain or share information. The teenager using a laptop to research a school project and the mother using her smartphone to Google how to change a shower head in her bathroom are both modern learners. What do these learners have in common? They are both learning digitally, when and where they need to.
Modern learners can be overwhelmed, impatient, distracted, untethered, collaborative, on-demand or empowered. As such, meeting their needs can be challenging. The first thing eLearning providers should concentrate on is reaching these learners wherever they are.
What Devices Are They Using?
Connecting with your learning audience at their locations depends on available networks. Connectivity varies a lot from one location to another in bandwidth and download/upload speeds. For example:
(Source: Wikipedia.org: actual rates may vary by network provider.)
Along with communication speeds, we need to consider the devices the audience is using and their capabilities. When mobile learning started to become popular, the focus for eLearning delivery had to change from desktop and laptop computers at workstations to tablets. With iPhones, smartphones and Android devices, mobile learning became truly mobile and created a new set of considerations for eLearning delivery, including:
Download speeds: A learner at a PC can easily switch to a different screen while waiting for a download, but mobile learners are not likely to be that patient and are prone to abandon anything that takes longer than 5 seconds to download.
Screen size: User interactions and navigation needed to be smaller and capable of being operated by one or two fingers. “Simple” became the key word in mobile learning design.
As eLearning design became a different game, different tools were needed.
What’s in Your Toolbox?
In April 2010, Steve Jobs of Apple published an open letter entitled “Thoughts on Flash”, signalling Apple’s parting of the ways with Adobe. At that point, Flash stopped working on the new Apple devices such as the iPhone and the eLearning world was sent scrambling for alternative authoring software for mobile learning.
These three names in software have emerged over time as the most widely-used and best suited for mobile learning content:
- Adobe Captivate: Captivate has been around for a long while and has gone through some significant changes since Steve Jobs’ letter. Adapting to the changing mLearning environment, Adobe updated Captivate to publish to HTML5 rather than just Flash. The most recent version, Adobe Captivate 2017 contains a full suite of tools designed for mobile learning development.
- Articulate Storyline 360: This authoring tool began life as Articulate Storyline. Over the years it has been upgraded and its suite of authoring features broadened. Storyline 360 is capable of publishing to HTML5, SCORM and Tin Can API (xAPI) with outputs that will play on all types of mobile devices.
- Trivantis Lectora 17: Lectora has appeared in Top 10 lists of authoring tools for a number of years and the latest version, Lectora 17, offers a list of features that will keep it in the Top 10 for some time. This software package is tailored to mLearning development, allowing for ease of use for developers and learners.
Your LMS – The Biggest Tool in the Box
To deliver true mobile learning, your LMS needs to be up to the task. What capabilities does your LMS need to deliver training anytime, anywhere to any device? Your LMS should be capable of:
- HTML5 and Tin Can API compatibility. In this day of BYOD, this should be a basic feature in any LMS worth considering because it allows mobile devices access to your LMS.
- Automatically delivering content in the correct screen size for the device being used by the learner. Learners don’t want to have to adjust their devices to view your content. They want instant delivery in a format that they can use now.
- Using mobile apps to deliver content. There are two types of apps to consider here:
- Web apps: These apps use web browsers and web technology. They work on any smart device or browser with no download.
- Native apps: These are specific apps developed for a specific platform or device. LMS providers design, develop, test, and maintain these applications.
- Tracking learner progress and course completions and providing this information to the learner.
- Delivering video content. Your LMS doesn’t have to be able to stream video; you can create a channel of your own and leave that to the pros at YouTube. Your LMS does need to be able to handle the bandwidths and download speeds to provide learner access to that channel.
- Compressing file sizes for faster downloads to mobile devices.
Modern learners need learning that can be delivered anytime, anywhere and it’s up to eLearning providers to make it so. Understanding the capabilities and capacities of mobile devices and how they are used by today’s learner is vital in the success of training programs.
I’ve discussed some questions that you should be asking about your learning audience and covered some of the tools you’ll need to serve that audience. The right authoring tools and a robust LMS are, and will continue to be, essential elements of mobile learning. It’s up to you to tool up and get at it!